Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 13 11:09:21 CST 2000

Sankaran Jayanarayanan wrote:

>Prima facie, there is simply an injunction in the shruti that one >must
>perform the jotishhaa sacrifice every spring. Taking it at face >value, it
>does appear that it is enjoined on ALL dvijas irrespective
This is not a correct understanding of the situation. The performance of
Vedic karmas presupposes various things. There is no injunction to perform
this particular sacrifice for a dvija in his student state, for the simple
reason that the presence of a wife is taken for granted. Similarly, there is
no injunction upon him who has given up the sacrificial fires and entered
the vanaprastha state or has gone further to the sannyasa state. Now, can
one argue that because of the injunction to sacrifice, it is impossible for
a dvija to ever enter into the latter two states? No. What counts as primary
is the intentionality of the person, which in turn presupposes both a
particular desire and ability. It is not the business of Sruti to specify
what the desire should be, and what the ability should be, in each and every
case. One who has given up desires, or is in the verge of giving up desires,
has every right to consider that the injunction does not apply to him.
Similarly, one who does not have the requisite ability need not feel that he
is violating some rule due to non-performance. If it is his intention to
perform the given sacrifice, then he should make it his business to first
acquire the requisite ability.

>of illness, desire, wealth, etc. But one notes that smR^iti has >something
>to say on this issue also.
>We take a look at it and find two points made in the smR^iti:
>1) The Apastamba shrauta suutra which says that it is to be performed >by
>one who has the desire for svarga.

As seen above, every injunction presupposes an active agent, who has a
particular desire to be satisfied by the performance of the given action.
All that Apastamba did here was to put down in writing what was
traditionally known from ancient times, in order to clarify the issue for
future generations.

>2) Some others (YAGYavalkya, etc.) who say that it a nitya karma for >the
>wealthy alone and NOT for the poor.

This, like the above, tackles the dimension of ability.

>Considering both the above declarations, why can we not say the >injunction
>is applicable for one who has the desire for heaven AND >the required

Yes, of course. But one fails to see why there anything in the above should
be seen as internally contradictory or inconsistent.

Take the issue of nityakarman. If you argue that it is enjoined upon all
dvijas, and should never be given up, your argument will necessarily entail
that no dvija should be allowed/able to renounce all karman and become a
sannyasin. On the other hand, that there have always been people who have
become sannyasins, and many directly from the student state, means that the
possibility has always existed, and has always been recognized within the
Vedic tradition. Now, what is it that allows one dvija to renounce even
nityakarman, and forces another to enter into its performance? Again we come
back to intention, at the base of which lies desire. Ability comes at the
next stage. One may have a desire, but not the ability to carry out the
necessary steps for gratifying the desire. Renouncing of even the basic
desire comes in the next state, irrespective of the question of ability.
What the Srauta sUtras and other smRtis do is to clarify all these issues
with respect to particular karmas. There is no contradiction between Sruti
and smRti in these cases. It is never out of context to mention desire with
respect to dharma, simply because dharma presupposes karma, which
presupposes kAma.

Re: considering recitation of itihAsa-purANa as equivalent to the offering
of flesh in a yajna - this is simply a praise of the fruits of the said
recitation. It is like those laudatory verses which say, "he who recites
this verse once gets rid of all sins, twice gains wealth and prosperity,
thrice gains mastery over all the worlds" etc. It does not mean that one can
symbolically substitute something else for the sacrificial animal. Rather,
the statement applies to a completely different action, namely the
recitation, the result of which is said to be equal to performing a
sacrifice. It simply means that one who wishes to recite can do so and get
the result, but one who wants to sacrifice can sacrifice. If one wishes to
sacrifice, but feels queasy about slaughtering an animal in the process,
then one can conceivably give up the intention to sacrifice, and turn to the
alternative action of recitation. However, there is no allowance for
modifying any part of the sacrificial act itself.

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